A nice mix of sacred and instrumental music took place in the Christuskirche am Mühlburger Tor as part of the Karlsruhe Handel Festival. The man himself was honoured by a performance of the psalm-setting Dixit Dominus, a short sonata from the oratorio Il trionfo dell tempo e dell disinganno, and the concert opened with the overture from the cantata Donna che in ciel. They were interspersed with Vivaldi’s Nisi dominus (another psalm setting) and a concerto grosso from Corelli.

Jakub Józef Orliński © Anita Wasik
Jakub Józef Orliński
© Anita Wasik

The orchestra on this occasion was the Deutsche Händel-Solisten, the resident group for the Festival, already heard to good advantage accompanying Semele, and here also bringing excitement and depth of feeling to the occasion. They were led by Carsten Wiebusch, a local conductor and organist, whose conducting seems to have been mostly of later composers but who has also played Bach on the organ. Visually, he seemed somewhat like a visitor from another planet than the one known as Early Music, in white tie and satin cummerbund. In any case, the result was persuasive.

The opening overture began with a broad sweeping Largo followed by a lively Allegro, noticeable for the forceful violin work from the concertmaster, Andrea Keller. The  Kammerchor der Christuskirche then took the stage – quite a large group of 39, perhaps larger than necessary for this and the Handel choral work, but a good coherent choir with the different parts quite aurally distinct for the most part. The soloist here was young Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński showing great promise. His good clear voice is almost perfectly even across its range, perhaps slightly underpowered in the low notes and his coloratura could be a little more cleanly articulated, but his warm tone was well projected. There was sensitive orchestral playing in the Cum dederit, and the Gloria Patri was notable for a beautiful viola d’amore solo by Jane Oldham.

The sonata from Il trionfo (1707) was delightful, with sprightly organ parts alternating with oboe and violin. It was succeeded by Corelli’s Concerto Grosso Op.6 no. 4 (published in 1714), whose opening movement showed similarity to the Handel work – who influenced whom?  The orchestra in this piece conveyed lovely united sound with liveliness allied with emotional resonance.

The concluding work was a rousing rendition of Handel’s setting of Dixit Dominus (also composed in1707), in which Orliński was joined by two sopranos, Jennifer France, the Festival’s Semele, and Ilkin Alpay from Turkey. The choir was on fine form, with a good separation of parts in the first movement, and an excellent rendering of the dense patterns in the last. In the second movement (Virgam virtutis), Orliński was well supported by the virtuosic cello playing of Markus Möllenbeck. The first soprano entered in the Tecum principium with bright tone and fluent coloratura. Dominus a dextris (movement six) called on all three soloists, and good tenor and bass singers from the chorus (Georg Kalbach and Florian Hartmann respectively);  the two sopranos were particularly penetrating (some might say shrill) as this point. The all out ending was greeted with sustained applause.